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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

106                              THE GAY GENIUS

develop what I consider the most important point in the memorandum.
This was the principle of disagreement in politics, as embodied in the
system of the imperial censorate. For, according to Su Tungpo, the
maintenance of a good regime depended very much upon the healthy
operation of political opposition. Democracy itself is predicated upon
the principle of disagreement among parties. In modern times I arn
sure Su would have opposed the principle of unanimity in the United
Nations Security Council as being essentially antidemocratic. He knew
that at least since Chinese Adam no two persons have ever completely
agreed, and that the only alternative to democracy is tyranny. I have
never yet found an enemy of democracy who is not a tyrant in the
home, in the country, or in world politics. Su Tungpo went on:

"Sun Pao has well said: 'The Duke of Chou was a great sage and.
the Duke of Shao was a great genius, and yet history records they
seldom agreed with one another at court.' There was, too, Wang
Tao of the Chin dynasty, who may be considered truly a great
minister. But when at dinner the guests approved of whatever he
said, Wang Shu was displeased. 'No one is a sage; you cannot always
be right,' said Wang Shu, and the minister thanked him for the
advice. If Your Majesty wants everybody to think the same thought
and express the same opinion and the whole court to sing the same
tune, everybody can do it. But should there be in the government
unprincipled men serving along with the rest, how will Your
Majesty expect ever to find it out?"

No one, I believe, stated the reasons for the existence of the censorate
and the principles underlying it so clearly as Su Tungpo in this letter.
The issue of a free, unfettered, fearless censorate was the issue of a
free public opinion.

"It appears to me that when the atmosphere for free criticism pre-
vails, even mediocre people will be encouraged to speak up, but when
such freedom is destroyed, even the best people will be inclined to
hold their tongues. I fear that from now on the pattern may be set
and the censors will become no more than the flunkeys of the cabinet
ministers, with the result that the Emperor will stand in complete
isoktion from his people. Once the system has been destroyed, any-
thing may happen. . . . One cannot, furthermore, escape the con-
clusion that when there are no fearless critics of the government in
times of peace, there will also be no national heroes willing to die for
the country in times of trouble. If you do not permit your people
ev.en to put in a word of criticism, how do you expect them to die
for the country when trouble comes?"